It seems to me there are two, maybe three, serious hurdles to Kimi Raikkonen joining Renault in Formula 1 in 2011.
The first is whether Kimi wants to come back to F1. He’s the only one who can answer that.
The second is whether Renault could afford Kimi after paying, we imagine, Robert Kubica a good chunk of change to stay with the team through 2012. Only Renault can answer that question. (To beat the dead horse I so often flog, there were so many Kimi fans at the Italian Grand Prix last year. I know some of that was Tifosi-related, but a bunch of the fans I saw were Kimi fans first, Ferrari fans second. I think the merchandise would off-set some of those costs and other sponsors might jump on board.)
The third is whether Kubica, the clear No. 1 driver at Renault right now, would put up a fight to keep his top seat.
Well, he’s answered that question:
Q. How would you feel about having Kimi Raikkonen as a team-mate?
RK: As I always say, I have no problems with my team-mates. If Kimi will join us it will be very good. I think he is a great and talented driver. It might be very, very good driver line-up with him, but I don’t know what the future will bring us and who will be my team-mate next year. I think it’s too early to say.
Q. Would you prefer to be with another top driver or a clear number two?
RK: It’s much better, especially in the current days, to have two good drivers in the team – both drivers can help the team and help each other. Without testing there is very limited time running. If you have someone you can rely on for information, data and feedback it is much easier for myself. Of course I think there is no downside to having two strong drivers in the team.
Q. When was the last time you spoke to Kimi?
RK: His last race last year, Abu Dhabi.
I know all the reasons why this pairing won’t happen, and Kimi is showing some signs this weekend of a possible break-out performance in WRC. He tied Seb Loeb for fourth quickest in the Rally Bulgaria, which is being contested on asphalt. No way to tell which direction Kimi might go, but I don’t think we can rule it out.
At least Robert’s on the record putting to rest one of the reasons it won’t happen.